…since becoming a mum. Well, so I thought until I caught myself cutting a hot cross bun into toddler size pieces yesterday. Nothing particularly riveting in that other than the bun in question was for a visiting (adult) friend. I guess she’s lucky it wasn’t pureed!
As Easter draws near, the annual debate over who makes the best commercial hot cross buns in Wellington begins. My vote always goes to Pandoro – mind you, I don’t buy them from anywhere else. While not on the inexpensive side, I’d rather one of theirs than five average buns.
My friend Christine, of Nothing New blog fame, posed the following question during the week: “Is it ever possible to have too much butter on a hot cross bun?”. I quite liked (and agree with) the answer from a friend who said, “yes, perhaps when the butter is dripping down your wrist”.
This week has been rather full – longest run ever (34.5kms) and preparation for departure. Paris, via London, here we come. I’m sure my pre-race diet will allow a for few buns in London – just for comparison reasons. I’ve also managed to make three batches of the sultana filled treats – I call it post-run recovery.
Here’s the recipe I use. I’m not sure of its origin and I have played around with it a bit. They are reasonably easy to make (just need a bit of time) and taste great, particularly with my latest discovery. Rehydrating the sultanas. I heard a baker on the radio suggest this – and, what a winner. It means the sultanas don’t suck up all the moisture from the bun.
Take one cup of sultanas (or raisins) and pop them into a smallish bowl. Add one and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of mixed spice and mix with a spoon. Pour over half a cup of boiling water and set aside for a couple of hours. (I found it worked best when I left them overnight, but you don’t need to wait this long if you haven’t got time.) Give it a mix from time to time. Check out how lovely and voluminous they look.
Put one and a half cups of warm milk into a bowl and sprinkle over two teaspoons of active dried yeast and two tablespoons of caster sugar. Whisk briefly with a fork and let stand for about 10 minutes until it begins to foam (or, you can leave it for an hour and go for a quick run).
Into a large bowl, sift four and a half cups of high-grade flour, half a teaspoon of salt, one and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of mixed spice. (Spices sometimes don’t let the yeast do its thing properly, which is why I’ve put half in with the sultanas.)
2014 update: since Kenny arrived in my life, I’ve found he’s perfect for a recipe like this. If you decide to use a stand beater, use with the dough hook from this stage. I found that I needed five cups of flour (Kenny was a better mixer and kneader than I am) and ended up with 20 large buns as a result.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the yeast and the following mixture (which I whisk together briefly first): two tablespoons of oil, 50g of melted butter, one egg and quarter of a cup of caster sugar. I use a large spoon to bring it all together and mix into a dough. I then pour in the sultanas (they should be moist but not have any liquid), spices and about a quarter of a cup of mixed peel.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It needs to be smooth and quite elastic. The dough should ‘bounce’ back when you lightly prod it with your finger.
Clean out your bowl with a disposable towel (I don’t worry about washing it) and throw in a thin layer of oil (rice bran is good). Put the dough into the bowl – turn the dough so the whole ball is lightly covered in the oil – then cover with clingfilm and a tea towel. Put somewhere warm until it doubles in size. Usually about 40 minutes will do.
If you want lovely fresh warm buns in the morning, you can leave the covered dough on the bench over night. If your house isn’t super hot (ie. you live in Wellington), it shouldn’t escape over the top and fill your kitchen. Then, just get up a tad earlier and continue – the buns can do the second raise while you’re getting ready for work.
Turn the dough back onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly and briefly (just to knock the air out of it). Then divide the dough into 16 pieces. I find it easiest to divide into four, then divide each of these again into four. You could get all flash and weight each piece to have exactly the same size buns, but I don’t.
Pop them onto a baking paper or baking mat lined tray and set aside for about 30 or 40 minutes until double-ish in size. Cover again with the clingfilm and a tea towel.
While waiting for them to rise, turn your oven to 200 celsius and make your cross mixture. Mix together half a cup of flour and a third of a cup of water to a paste consistency. I then put it into a tough plastic bag and cut off the corner. Pipe on the crosses.
Put the tray into the oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes. I set the timer at 15 minutes and take a quick peek in case they’ve cooked quickly. They should be golden and quite ‘springy’ to touch. About 10 minutes into baking, make the glaze. Super simple. Two tablespoons each of water and caster sugar and a teaspoon of gelatine. Stir together over gentle heat until the gelatine and sugar have dissolved.
Brush the glaze on to the buns when they come out of the oven.
Smother with butter and enjoy.
And, in case you’re wondering, six training runs to go before M-day (and, yay, only one over ten k’s). A big thanks to husband for all his child minding while I’m out jogging (actually, it’s more like plodding) around the increasingly larger block (or, in last week’s case, what felt like around half of Wellington). And a shout out to Sami and Sophie for their help babysitting tonight.
2014 update: same boy, same recipe, same result!
I’m so glad that I was the recipient of the total bun- it was far too delicious to have only had a toddler size piece. Re-hydrating the sultanas wins the prize for the best cooking hint in a long while and could easily be applied to a whole range of baked goods. I’m thinking in particular of my Mum’s classic sultana cake….in fact I think the recipe cam from her Mother!
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Thanks Kath. Actually, batch of the week goes to today’s effort – I made the dough last night and did second rising and cooking this morning. Worked so well, I think I’ll do it every time. Husband thinks more spice and sultanas required (he could be right!) but they were pretty good.